There are a lot of great things happening in the tabletop game community, which is great and for a lot of us, playing games is about meeting new people, having fun and sharing a hobby. Yet, growing the community and showing people, who have never heard about board games, what it is that we all love about playing them, is a different thing and often seen as something that is up to boardgame cafes, tabletop evangelists or game publishers’ marketing teams to achieve. However, we all can do something to grow the hobby and share with more people the joy of playing games.
Let me start by saying that not everyone will be comfortable with meeting new people, let alone trying to convince them that our hobby is amazing. However, for those who don’t fear social situations, or who are happy in smaller groups, can do something to bring new people into our community, without the need for years of training teaching games and without the need for buying new games or organizing big events.
First of all, think about the games you play regularly and that you love. There will be at least one that you know inside out and that you have played so many times that you started dreaming about it. It’s these sort of games that you will find very easy to teach to others – and chances are, you have already taught someone else how to play one of them, or at least told them how brilliant the game is and started explaining to them how the game plays. It’s your first step in the right direction and will give you a starting point.
The next step is to find a time and venue for teaching the game to others. For many it will be a matter of speaking to work colleagues and scheduling a lunchtime slot where you introduce the game and then play it with everyone. Chances are, your colleagues will soon suggest games of their own and you will end up with a regular games club that might even start to meet after work.
Of course, some games are just too complex or take too long to play for other reasons and are therefore not suitable for a lunch break. On the other hand, you will probably know games that play much more quickly, and more often than not, these types of games are also easier to explain to others, because there are only a handful of rules to teach.
Yet, if you do have a game you really love that takes longer than an hour to explain and play, then look further afield. A lot of local friendly games stores will love to host a teach session, as that will draw in more people to the store. They will probably be happy to advertise the event and maybe even offer a copy of the game, if you don’t want to bring your own. Some stores might not have the space to host a session, but they might know a place where it could take place, so it’s still worth asking. Even those stores that already run regular game events will be interested to hear from you. After all, small games stores will only have so many staff, so if you offer your time for free, it’ll be a great help for them.
Speaking of creating an event to draw people in, you might want to speak to your local pub. There will be days, usually Tuesdays or Wednesdays, that are quiet for them. So if you can offer to run an event on one of those days, they’ll be more than happy to reserve a table or two for you, or even a whole room. You will probably have to take over more of the organisation of the event, but you could keep it quite freeform, and rely on the pub to advertise the sessions for you and then see who turns up on the day. Just have a word and you’ll find that most pubs are quite clued up on hosting events and will be able to give you advice and support.
Also speak to your local community centres and libraries. These places will also benefit from having a regular event that brings people through the door. In fact, it won’t necessarily have to be regular. You can start with one session and see how you go from there. Again, these places will probably be able to give you advice about hosting the event and should be able to advertise it for you.
If you find running these events is for you, then consider contacting publishers directly, in particular if you’re going to run teaching sessions at community centres or libraries, because these sort of places are usually harder to reach for them. Chances are publishers are happy to give you a copy of a game, if you promise to teach it to a certain number of people. In fact, you will probably be able to keep the game afterwards, which is great of course.
Lastly, don’t forget online tools such as MeetUp, which allow you to create events and manage attendance. These tools will expose you to a potentially wider audience, but are really just an additional step after you have established what type of setting works best for you.
I hope this article has given you some inspiration. I’d love to hear if you have decided to host your own games night or games teaching sessions. Maybe you have some other ways to bring more people into the hobby, which would be great. Please share all your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.
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